I HAVE no quarrel with Isobel Lindsay’s view (Letters, July 6) of how we come to have Trident on our west coast, but she dismisses too easily the views of Professor Malcolm Chalmers as reported in The Herald on Tuesday – that SNP policy of ridding Scotland of Trident makes doubtful its other policy of smoothly joining the EU (“Ditching Trident could scupper Sturgeon’s plans to rejoin the EU”, The Herald, July 5).

He, and not she, was reflecting on a reality that is the permanent basis of all international relations – spheres of influence and state interests. Scotland is in Nato’s sphere of influence, and Nato's EU members have state interests in the retention of Scotland’s role as the alliance’s unsinkable aircraft carrier protecting the Atlantic sea lanes, and home of an important base for submarines both nuclear-armed and non-nuclear. With Russia no longer a potential adversary, but a proven aggressor, Scotland’s strategic importance to Nato has been enhanced. That is why, if I read him correctly, Prof Chalmers believes EU Nato states will have leverage over Scotland’s defence policy if it applies to join the EU.

Nato, Trident, EU are not domestic matters like taxation, health and economic policy, but fall into a category of a very different dimension in which others have a stake in what a Scottish government will contemplate, and will see it as legitimate to bring their power to bear upon any final decisions. A policy made in a devolution setting, in which other states’ interests can be ignored, will dissolve when confronted with imperative geopolitical factors.

I personally believe that the Trident programme is misconceived, but then I am not a state with state interests. What I do know from history is that where a state or states believes there is a strategic position that must be held, it or they will mobilise all diplomatic and political power to do so, contrary to the belief expressed by Ms Lindsay. I cite two examples from the UK actions when conceding independence to others – the retention of British naval ports on the Irish Atlantic coast when the Free State was established (not given up until 1938), and the continuing sovereign bases in Cyprus.

What Prof Chalmers stated need not be an impediment to the SNP’s pursuit of independence if it will accept and state the obvious. That it is foolish to link a vote for independence as automatic endorsement of EU application, such matter being left to the first independent government which might not be the SNP; and that the same applies to foreign and defence policy.

Jim Sillars, Edinburgh.


IN his recent article ("Unionist anger and contempt will see this UK marriage fail", The Herald, July 5), Neil Mackay brought an unpleasant and unnecessarily abusive tone into the Scottish independence debate in his parody depiction of unionists as entirely negative and obstructive "partners" in the UK "marriage dispute" as compared to their positively-motivated Separatist partners.

Pursuing his family analogy, we may agree what is fundamentally at stake in this debate is the long-term welfare of future generations of the Scottish "family". We should also agree that both "parent groups", separatist and unionist, should give top priority to the future interests of their "children". The present situation is that the separatists take a severely pessimistic view of future prospects for Scotland within the UK. They are also highly optimistic about the possibilities for change and improvement through independence. Meanwhile, the unionist "parent group", although concerned about the current coherence and efficiency of the British state, is much more critical of the beneficial potential of independence, and holds deep worries about the risks involved in the revolutionary upheaval of separatism.

This gulf in opinion within the present generation of the "Scottish family" can only be bridged if both parties agree that they are equally patriotic in wanting the best for Scotland’s future. They should then submit themselves to a self-induced process of "marriage guidance". If they can’t agree at the outset, they should at least respect the views of the other and conduct the debate in a serious but courteous manner. This should involve seeking rational and informed analysis of key issues however complex and controversial, separating emotion and committed prejudice from the process, and bringing to it as much focus, good will and open-mindedness as possible.

In that context, there is no need for Mr Mackay's use of abusive emotional language to stoke the fires of dissent in the debate. We must all remember to behave responsibly and respectfully for "the sake of the bairns".

David Henderson, Inverness.


THE headline to Neil Mackay's article might have led the casual reader to believe that the article was going to be about the relationship between Scotland and the rest of the UK, but no, this was not about Scotland and England (sic), this was about the Yes movement as represented primarily by the SNP and Greens, and unionism as represented by Tories, Labour and LibDems, a broadly 50-50 split across Scotland between Yes and No.

Now correct me if I’m wrong, but I understood the Yes movement is looking for a way out of an unhappy marriage with the rest of the UK, that the "divorce" they want is to allow all Scots (and non-Scots living here) to be citizens of an independent country, where all such citizens will live in what might pass for harmony. According to Mr Mackay, however, we have one half of the nation looking for a way out of the relationship with the other half. So how might that be avoided? It seems the answer is for those who are ostensibly content with the status quo to let those who are not have what they want, which is not generally considered to be a recipe for the future bliss of an unhappy couple.

Compromise then? Mr Mackay puts the onus on those reluctant to change to propose a compromise but does not suggest what the nature of such a compromise could be. Federalism perhaps? I seem to recall that it was widely accepted that if federalism had been an option in the 2014 referendum it would have garnered the greatest support and provided some hope of people being able to work together in some form of general consensus, but that option wasn’t on the table then. Could it be now? Apparently not, because it is not acceptable to the SNP, even if it is what the majority of the voters might want.

So what chance is there of a compromise solution when the best chance of future harmony has already been ruled out? So what about compromising on the question to be asked, instead of the biased and discredited Yes-No proposal? Nope, no chance of that either because that might weaken the prospects of the unhappy spouse getting what it wants.

I cannot conceive of a more divisive analogy than the one put forward by Mr Mackay. There is no possibility of the sort of divorce he contemplates; the parties must find a way to co-exist in the same space.

Campbell Fullarton, Kilmarnock.


AT a time when even Pythia might struggle to predict tomorrow’s events, Lee Lawson (Letters, July 6) indulges in a litany of questions seeking answers as to the first five years of an independent Scotland.

He first asks what currency we will use. I am of the vintage that can remember a half-crown being nicknamed half a dollar, Harold Wilson’s “pound in your pocket” and being rescued by the IMF. More recently sterling has lost 11 per cent of its value over the last year and is now trading at $1.20. Some analysts are predicting an existential crisis with the pound being compared to currencies in emerging markets.

Leaving aside his other questions and assuming that we would depart with North Sea oil I would invite him to argue the merits of retaining sterling?

Alan Carmichael, Glasgow.


WILLIE McLean (Letters, July 6) tells us that Sir Keir Starmer "has chosen to cosy up to the lost Labour voters in the Red Wall".

The other way of looking at it is that he has chosen to respect those voting in a referendum, although he did not agree with its outcome. If only Nicola Sturgeon had the courage and integrity to do the same.

Peter A Russell, Glasgow.


TO listen to and read the SNP leaders’ criticism of Boris Johnson really sticks in the craw. The hapless PM most certainly deserves all the criticism he gets, and then some, but coming from the same group who have committed similar if not identical misdemeanours with sheltering and promoting their own erring MPs is beyond parody. People in glass houses should not throw stones.

Alexander McKay, Edinburgh.